Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston seems unlikely to make the European Ryder Cup team through the conventional qualification process as he is well off the pace on both the European Points List and the World Points List.
However, European captain Darren Clarke would be well-advised to include the affable Briton as one of his three captain’s picks. Here, we explain why…
Johnston, affectionately known as Beef in golfing circles, has become something of a sporting cult hero in recent times. The fluffy, beer-drinking Englishman has won over the hearts of fans all over the world with his refreshing approach to the game.
When he pierces fairways with his reliable driver he chuckles softly to himself in much the same way as a weekend golfer does after hitting their lone long-ball for the day.
When he drains putts to rapturous applause from his adoring galleries, he holds up his putter in one hand and a thumbs-up in the other, not merely acknowledging the people as many professionals do but rather thanking them in the most genuine manner for their support.
When he blocks, pulls, chunks or thins a shot, he is visibly distraught, like a kid who has just put a brand new ProV into a water hazard. And when he wins, he gets “hammered”.
What you see with Beef is what you get. He is loved for his honesty… and his beard… and he feels that love brings the best out of him.
The 2016 Ryder Cup is now just two months away. To qualify for the 12-man European Team players must either finish in the top four on the European Points List or in the top five on the World Points List.
Johnston lies 24th on both and with the 28th of August cut-off date fast approaching, it seems improbable that he will make the grade.
To fill the roster, captain Clarke has three additional wildcard picks available to him and he should think long and hard about including Beef in his touring party. The Ryder Cup and Johnston deserve each other.
The 27-year-old has generated a massive following since his first win on the European Tour at the Real Club Valderrama in the Spanish Open back in April. In the minutes that followed that victory, he told the press of how excited he was to “get hammered” and celebrate with his family.
While European fans getting behind the bearded beast from that moment on should have come as no surprise to anyone, Johnston’s hearty patronage in America has been extraordinary.
At the recently-concluded PGA Championship, which took place at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey, you would have sworn that Johnston was born and bred in Springfield. Such was the brawn of his backing from the often hostile American golf public.
At an event like the Ryder Cup, the value of a European player who is an American crowd favourite cannot be underestimated. Especially considering that the event is being contested at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, where spectators are renowned for unruly behavior.
Johnston could serve as an efficient tranquilizer for the home crowds if paired with someone like Sergio Garcia, who often comes in for plenty of stick in America.
Furthermore, Johnston seems to play golf for something bigger than his own personal aspirations.
On the course, he is often seen encouraging other players or chatting with fans, almost as if the sport is simply his vehicle that will allow him to make the world a slightly better place.
It seems highly likely that placing Johnston in a team environment, where the collective success of the group is in part dependent on his personal performance, will see him raise his game.
Ryder Cups are more about big people than they are about big players. One needs only look at Tiger Woods’ patchy record in the event to understand this.
The 14-time major champion has only won 13 of his 33 Ryder Cup matches. Of the six Ryder Cups that he has been involved in, he has only been successful in one.
On the contrary, a major-less player of far less ability than Woods like Ian Poulter has a far more impressive record at the Cup. Poulter has notched 12 wins from the 18 Ryder Cup matches he has played to date and has helped Europe to victory on four occasions.
Johnston’s reputation as a good bloke above everything else make him an ideal pick. Not only will the Ryder Cup raise his own level of play but his capacity as a human being will inspire those around him to greater heights.
With that said, Johnston is a fine golfer too, which is all too easily forgotten in the hysteria that is created around his beard, banter, belly and boozing.
His first win on the European Tour, that has already been alluded to, came in the most testing of conditions at the Real Club Valderrama. His winning one-over-par score for the week was the first time since the 1996 Scottish Open that a European Tour event had been won with a plus number.
The field that week was also full of quality. Players like Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Andy Sullivan were all present. To succeed at a tough course, in foul weather surrounded by high caliber competitors speaks volumes of Johnston’s temperament and talent.
Johnston’s swing is unorthodox – the club face is slightly open at the top and he takes it back outside the line – but repeatable. The best Ryder Cup players have sound short games and the ability to make putts. Johnston is no different. On the PGA Tour in 2016 Johnston has gotten up-and-down from 10 yards out or less 75 percent of the time and his putting average per hole is low at 1.833.
The American Ryder Cup Team looks formidable with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler all playing well and ready to launch an offensive to regather the trophy that America have not won since 2008.
Clarke’s team in comparison looks slightly weaker and he will surely need to think outside the box to ensure that his first stint as European captain does not end in disaster.
Johnston could be the catalyst he is after. And if he does pick the Englishman and things don’t go to plan on the course, Clarke will still have someone who offers value to share a pint with afterwards. Beef for the Ryder Cup, it just makes sense.
Zac Elkin (@zacelkin11)
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